Back-to-school anxiety: BC Children’s shares tips to help

Vancouver – Today marks two weeks before the first day of school and BC Children’s Hospital reminds parents and caregivers there are steps they can take now to help children prepare for school-related anxiety and stress.

For many children and youth, beginning a new school year is an exciting time – an opportunity to make new friends, set goals, excel in a favourite subject or play on a sports team. For others it can be unnerving; common sources of anxiety are caused by several things such as, adjusting to a new routine and a new teacher, pressure to make new friends and take part in social situations. These feelings are normal for children and youth who become anxious when faced with change.

Dr. Susan Baer, psychiatrist in the Mood and Anxiety Disorders clinic at BC Children’s Hospital, recommends parents plan ahead to help ease the back-to-school transition. Whether it is your child’s first day at school, or if they are having a hard time adjusting after summer break, gradually exposing them to their environment can make a big difference.

Tips for parents and caregivers:
• Introduce children to the school year routine one to two weeks before school starts
• Plan for transitions – getting to school, returning to school after breaks
• Provide regular routines – morning, school, homework, bedtime
• Hold realistic expectations that are right for your child’s age
• Help your child identify his or her feelings – nervous, intimidated, shy
• Ask your child if they have ideas or solutions for a particular concern
• Show yourself identifying your own feelings, problem solving and being brave
• Remain calm when your child is anxious
• Help your child shift their focus to the positive aspects of school
• Praise and reward even their small accomplishments
Consider seeking more help if your child:
• Attempts to remain at home or with a caregiver
• Refuses to attend school on certain days (field trips)
• Refuses to eat in public
• Refuses to use public bathrooms
• Constantly worries
• Continually seeks comfort and reassurance
• Shows extreme shyness, avoiding social situations or events
• Raises physical complaints with no medical explanation (stomach aches, headaches, difficulty catching breath)
• Throws tantrums, cries or screams excessively.
Learn More:
Resources for children, youth, young adults and parents:
• Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre: A provincial resource centre that provides mental health and substance use information, resources, and peer support to children, youth and their families from across BC.
• MindShift: An interactive app designed to help youth learn how to relax, develop more helpful ways of thinking, and identify active steps that will help them take charge of their anxiety.
• mindcheck.ca: An interactive website designed to help youth and young adults age 13-25 to check out how they’re feeling and quickly connect to mental health resources and support.
• Stresslr is a free web app that provides a fun and engaging way for children ages 9-11 to learn about stress, understand how they react to it, and develop healthy strategies to cope with stress in their everyday lives. Stresslr can be used on any computer, tablet or iPhone, and will soon be available on Android devices as well!
• AnxietyBC: Information on how anxiety can express itself and effective strategies to address it in children, youth and young adults.
• BC FRIENDS Online Parent Program: An online resource for parents of children in kindergarten to grade 7. FRIENDS is an anxiety prevention and resiliency building curriculum available for use in BC classrooms.
• The Crisis Line Association of BC provides 24 hours a day, seven days a week linkage to regional crisis and information lines. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) from anywhere in the province to be connected to the nearest available regional crisis line. Access the trained volunteers who offer emotional support, crisis and suicide assessment/intervention, and resource information.
• The Confident Parents: Thriving Kids program, delivered through the Canadian Mental Health Association’s B.C. Division, helps parents address behavioural problems in kids aged three to 12. The free program is delivered by telephone during the day, as well as evenings and weekends, to accommodate busy work and school schedules.

Dr. Susan Baer, Psychiatrist, Mood and Anxiety Disorders clinic, BC Children’s Hospital -

“This is the time of year when children can become anxious about going back to school and so it’s important for parents and caregivers to be aware of what they can do to ensure a smooth transition. Taking time to acknowledge your child’s worries about the new school year and problem solve solutions, can help them shift their focus to the positive aspects of school.”

BC Children’s Hospital, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority provides expert care for the province’s most seriously ill or injured children, youth and young adults, including newborns. Child and Youth Mental Health provides a diverse range of specialized and one-of-a-kind tertiary mental health and substance use services for children, adolescents and young adults across the province.

The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) plans, manages and evaluates selected specialty and province-wide health care services across BC, working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit www.phsa.ca or follow us on Twitter @PHSAofBC.